Sigismund Neukomm (1778-1854) was considered to be one of the most accomplished of composers during his lifetime. Born and raised in Salzburg, he was a student of both Michael and Joseph Haydn. His music remained true to classical principles well into the romantic period, so much so that toward the end of his life, he was considered by some to be rather a relic of an earlier age. His career took him from Salzburg to St. Petersburg and later to Brazil where he popularized the music of Mozart and Haydn.
The four works on this cpo CD, three orchestral fantasies and the Grand Sinfonie heroioque, were written over a period of nearly thirty years between 1806 and 1833. The earlier works, while perhaps rather simple, are tightly constructed and exhibit the influence of Haydn and Mozart. Neukomm’s gift for melodic writing emerges in his later pieces, such as in the lovely opening section of the Dramatic Fantasia on some passages of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Throughout all four works, there is evident a great dramatic sense, some sections worthy of Beethoven.
Neukomm’s music has been lost to us in the shadows of such composers as Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann. But any listener interested in hearing something fresh in the style and manner of this time is sure to enjoy Neukomm’s work. Music lovers can again put their hands together for the cpo label for shining a light on another extraordinary composer who has been lost in the shadows of the greats.
During the first half of the nineteenth century Sigismund Neukomm was one of Europe’s most highly regarded composers. His music was heard during the festive procession of King Louis XVIII into Paris after the victory over Napoleon and at the memorial service held during the Congress of Vienna for King Louis XVI, who had been executed on the scaffold in 1793. In gratitude the King of France named Neukomm a Knight of the Legion of Honor; the composer was proud of this title and thenceforth had it printed on the title pages of his compositions. He was the highly favored protégée of the French diplomat Talleyrand, who enabled him to establish contacts with the high nobility and thus to lead a splendid life free of worries. Neukomm was also an outstanding musician and maintained an intimate artistic friendship with Joseph Haydn until the older composer’s death. He was above all a composer with a mind of his own and full of originality. This fact is very convincingly demonstrated by his four orchestral fantasies, which he himself termed an “Essay in a New Genre.” Here we encounter Sturm und Drang and anticipations of romanticism in their purest form.
Neukomm first studied with the organist Weissauer and later studied theory under Michael Haydn, though his studies at Salzburg University were in philosophy and mathematics. He became honorary organist at the Salzburg University church in 1792, and was… read more
Michael Alexander Willens
Conductor: Michael Alexander Willens
Michael Alexander Willens received B.M and M.M degrees at the Juilliard School in New York, where he studied conducting with John Nelson. He has also studied with Jacques-Louis Monod, Harold Farberman, … read more
Die Kölner Akademie (The Cologne Academy)
Performers: Die Kölner Akademie (The Cologne Academy)
Die Kölner Akademie – Orchester Damals und Heute is a unique ensemble based in Cologne which performs music of the seventeenth through the twenty first centuries on both modern and period instruments with world renowned guest soloists. The ensemble seeks to bring out the composers’ intentions by… read more
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Sigismund von Neukomm: Grande Sinfonie heroique Op. 19